Government declares war on school run

Environment: Minister demands that children walk or ride to school, rather than being ferried there by parents
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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday demanded that the one million car journeys made every day to ferry children to school should be cut by a third.

The Education minister Charles Clarke said the daily scramble to drop off and pick up youngsters from school gates was "chaotic, sad and inappropriate". He said the school run was dangerous for children, and created pollution and congestion. He called for every school to draw up plans to cut traffic.

Parents driving their children to school account for one in five cars on the road during the rush hour, and create traffic chaos outside school gates. Experts believe that car journeys to school have increased by 60 per cent since the 1980s because of increasing fears about letting children travel to school alone. Yesterday Mr Clarke said he wanted a 20mph speed limit or other traffic calming measures imposed outside most schools as part of a package to reduce traffic.

Speaking at a conference in London, he called on local authorities to overhaul bus subsidies, set up car-sharing schemes and build new safe cycle routes to encourage children to make their own way to school.

A pilot car-sharing scheme will be launched next year, and new Government guidelines on school travel are due to be published later this year. Mr Clarke said some schools had already had great success in reducing the amount of traffic. He said walking or cycling to school was healthy for children and should be encouraged.

He said: "I think a lot of parents are really angry about the state of affairs. Outside some schools it is really very bad. You have cars powering up to drop off their children while other youngsters are running into school in the same closed area. It's really quite dangerous. In every school there ought to be a strategy which will start to address this.

"We all know that the massive local congestion and pollution within school limits is caused by the fact that so many people use a car for going to school. We all believe that walking or cycling to school are completely healthy alternatives for all our children." Mr Clarke said money had already been made available for better transport to and from school.

A spokesman for the AA said: "There are lots of problems associated with the school run and we have to encourage people to take an alternative. We know it adds significantly to congestion, and the majority of trips could be walked, cycled or bused. The school run in many cases is unnecessary."